Home » How Apple’s New CarPlay Controls Could Make Your Car Look Like A Retro 911, Acura NSX, Or Whatever You Want

How Apple’s New CarPlay Controls Could Make Your Car Look Like A Retro 911, Acura NSX, Or Whatever You Want

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When Apple first announced that CarPlay would extend its reach to vehicles’ gauge clusters, reactions were mixed. On the one hand, tech companies aren’t car companies, and what might be sleek in rendering software might not work so well at 70 mph. On the other, car companies aren’t tech companies, and lots of native user interface design isn’t optimal or beautiful. What to do? Well, design consultancy firm BlackBox Infinite has been playing around with melding Apple’s user interface design language with iconic gauge clusters of the past, and the results are quite a sight to behold (you might remember that firm for the AR F1 idea).

Among OEMs right now, Ford is picking up the retro cluster theme ball and really running with it. The new Mustang’s digital gauge cluster features themes inspired by the Fox body Mustang of the 1980s and the 1967 Mustang, both of which have been smash hits among enthusiasts. In the case of the ’80s-inspired cluster theme, the soft green light might be coming from a screen instead of a bulb, but light is light and it works either way. Plus, humans like skeuomorphs, graphics that mimic physical objects. They’re often busy, but they’re comforting, as they remind us of the familiar. Think about how the save button in many computer programs looks like a diskette despite the diskette being an outmoded form of storage. So, what would similar treatments look like for other cars? Let’s take a look.

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First up, here’s a cluster skin inspired by the widowmaker, the old Porsche 911 Turbo. See, Porsche has already announced that it’ll let the next generation of Apple CarPlay take over its digital instrument clusters, so a treatment like this really makes a great deal of sense. Sure, modern water-cooled models and EVs won’t need quite so many gauges dedicated to oil monitoring, but the five-circle layout with crescent-moon temperature and oil pressure gauges is a classic, and still works with an update to digitization and fresher fonts.

CarPlay Porsche mockup

Next up, it’s Ferrari’s turn, with a digital cluster skin inspired by the dials of the iconic Testarossa. Ferrari has announced it’s ditching its built-in navigation systems for Apple CarPlay, and a throwback to the days of Crockett and Tubbs would definitely up the fun factor. In keeping with next-gen CarPlay norms, Blackbox Infinite has decided to use Apple’s closing circles as pointers on virtual analog dials, freeing up space for additional digital information.

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Testarossa CarPlay mockup

More a fan of Japanese metal? How about a cluster layout inspired by the original Acura NSX? While this mockup looks quite clean, it also features a bit of a compromise. To get the fuel gauge inside the speedometer dial, the zero-marker for speed has been moved from being at seven o’clock to eight o’clock. While that sounds like a subtle difference, it does take away some of the distinctiveness of the speedometer.

Acura NSX CarPlay mockup

However, the NSX doesn’t have a gauge cluster as iconic as the digital one in the Honda S2000. This rendering’s properly crisp, with a nice bounding box around the speedometer, song information subtly replacing the odometer, and the bars in the auxiliar gauges for fuel level and water temperature being de-italicized for legibility. Wouldn’t this look fantastic on the dash of a new Civic Type R?

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Oh, and while we’re on the subject of old-school digital gauge clusters, how about the iconic dashboard of the C4 Corvette? Granted, General Motors is phasing out Apple CarPlay, so this is a bit of an awkward one, but man, is this ever a throwback. While changing the bars for the tachometer and speedometer to constant-radius arcs does drop the funkiness a touch, the result is substantially more legible than what the C4 offered, and the overall result still looks the business.

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Perhaps the most removed revamp from the original is this reimagination of the Lancia Delta Integrale cluster. The crosshair funkiness of the speedometer and tachometer are still intact, but overall legibility has been cleaned up so much that this would look great in just about any performance car, provided the typo in the tachometer is fixed. It’s a distinctly modern take on a classic theme, borrowing merely a few simple design elements to

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While Apple’s own concepts of how CarPlay could fill your gauge cluster often leave something to be desired from both an aesthetic and an informational standpoint, these concepts are far better than merely okay. If the next generation of Apple CarPlay was used in this manner, I could get behind it taking over the entire dashboard.

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(Photo credits: BlackBox Infinite)

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Dan Bee
Dan Bee
14 days ago

Will the 202X Jeep with this offer the option of the 1952 Willys Jeep mantel clock speedo with four auxiliary gauges underneath?

Goblin
Goblin
15 days ago

So, why exactly do I need Carplay in order to do this, as opposed to the manufacturer opening access to the dash and allowing me to do this via some app of theirs ?

Why would they let that cash cow go get milked in someone else’s farm ?

Bennett Alston
Bennett Alston
16 days ago

These all look cool and I love the idea, as far as a digital dash goes.
That being said, give me analog gauges any day for visibility in sunlight and true 3-dimensional beauty. It also takes away from a dashboard giving a car it’s own identity, as the original versions of the ones featured above did on their respective models. It’s a further step toward every car feeling the same, losing its perceived “soul” as seen by owners and car people, and becoming a bland, generic, utilitarian tool.

Sklooner
Sklooner
16 days ago

And then the sun will shine on it and you won’t be able to see a thing

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
15 days ago
Reply to  Sklooner

With a proper hood that hasn’t been a problem in any of my cars with all-digital (or mostly-digital) dashes.

Ben
Ben
16 days ago

One good thing about my janky Torque-based dash setup in my gen 2 Prius (which is lacking basically every gauge in its normal dash) is the ability to customize everything. I wouldn’t hate it if manufacturers allowed that in their regular dashes too. I’m sure there would be some restrictions (must have a speedometer somewhere, for example), but it would still be cool.

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